In his foreword to the book, The Joy of Clojure, Steve Yegge shared this insight:
"The global programming community is fashion-driven to a degree that would embarrass haute couture designers from New York to Paris."
Are you using the very latest languages, frameworks, tools, databases, platforms and UIs?
Or are you stuck on yesterday’s tired tech?
Fashion-driven developers are using Y before you know that X isn’t hot anymore.
Soon you’ll be seeing blogs called “How to Produce X-free Solutions”, tweets claiming that “X is Dead”, a #NoX hashtag and a conference talk called “The Joys of Y”.
You will feel so uncool if you are fashion-driven and still using X.
Even older programmers succumb to being fashion-driven, just as an aging parent might don a new denim jacket to feel young again.
Are You A Fashion Victim?
A fashion victim doesn’t realize that their obsession with trends has led them to cross the line into looking completely ridiculous.
Does this happen in tech?
Rich Hickey, inventor of Clojure, thinks so.
In his talk, Simple Made Easy, he said:
It’s like “Oh, look, this thing has this benefit, oh great, I’m gonna do that!”
“Oh but this has that benefit, oh that’s cool, oh that’s awesome. Oh, that’s shorter!”
You never see in these discussions, was there a tradeoff, is there any downside, is there anything bad that comes along with this?
Never, nothing. As programmers, we’re looking all for benefits and we’re not looking carefully enough at the byproducts.
How expensive are the byproducts of new tech fashions?
The more obsessed we are about fashion, the less we pay attention to our budget.
Kent Beck once said:
"Software development that doesn't recognize economics, risks the hollow victory of a technical success."
Is your new hot tech thing replacing a perfectly good solution, thereby digging a deeper financial hole and failing to improve any key metrics or business outcomes?
Like kids who love to dress up and pretend they are someone else, techies have the urge to try on new tech, see how it feels, what it looks like and what others think of it.
This is healthy and useful.
Books like Seven Languages in Seven Weeks are like dress-up boxes for techies, providing endless fun, education and possibilities.
New tech may in fact yield significant advantages over older tech, like simpler solutions, reduced costs, less maintenance, better usability, etc.
And staying up on tech trends may help attract other fashion-conscious talent to your organization.
On the TV show What Not To Wear, a team of fashion stylists revamp the look of people who were nominated by their friends for makeovers due to their lamentable appearance.
Our field has no end of lamentable legacy solutions in need of a tech makeover.
For whatever reason, some people remain profoundly unfashionable, living with tech stacks and tools that were outmoded ages ago.
Such outmoded tech became unfashionable because people found better, less-awkward, less-problematic solutions.
Paying too little attention to tech fashions is equally as problematic as paying too much attention to them.
Astute fashion people are students of history: they know about forgotten periods of fashion as well as looks that never go out of style.
When Rich Hickey invented Clojure, he was yearning for a classic style in programming: a return to LISP, a language invented in the late 1950s, early 1960s.
He knew that functional programming wasn’t a fad (an intense, but short-lived fashion trend) but rather an enduring idea.
Regardless of age, classic tech fashions never go out of style because they are extremely useful.
If you want to be fashion-driven in tech, pay attention to what genuinely helps produce safer, simpler, better designs and what just masquerades as “new & improved.”